PHOENIX — The crowd stood up and cheered, but the volume fell short compared to when Steve Nash dazzled them with his amazing passes.
Suns fans greeted Nash with a warm reception when he was introduced as a visiting player for the first time since Phoenix traded him to the Lakers. But the reaction also consisted of a smattering of boos.
And as much as Nash appeared humbled for returning to the same place where he won two league MVP awards, the Lakers’ 92-86 loss Sunday to the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center made the feeling bittersweet.
“Tonight was a big setback,” Nash said after posting only 11 points and two assists in 33 minutes.
Even so, Nash kept enough big picture perspective to soak in the moment. He signed various Suns memorabilia while still fighting frustrations about the loss. Nash visited plenty of team personnel, ranging from various teammates, security guards and team officials. Nash and his Lakers teammates turned their heads during a first-quarter timeout to watch a rousing video tribute.
As Diddy’s “Coming Home” blared over the loud speakers, the video featured Nash throwing alley-oop lobs, making clutch shots and hoisting his MVP trophies.
“Very flattering and very sweet of the organization,” Nash said. “It was very kind of them.”
Still, that moment just contrasted the current reality Nash faces.
The Lakers dropped their eighth consecutive road game, a troublesome sign as they finish part one of a seven-game trip. The Lakers (20-26) trail the Houston Rockets (25-23) by four games for the eighth playoff spot.
Not that Nash expected to drop 18 assists as he did against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2004-05 season, the first time he faced them after leaving the Mavericks for Phoenix in free agency. Instead of punishing teams with his thread-the-needle passes and pick-and-roll precision, Nash played off-the-ball and took only eight field-goal attempts.
“”It doesn’t matter,” Nash said. “I want to help this team get a win and continue to improve the up-and-down season. This little bit of momentum is important to continue it.”
That didn’t happen.
Instead, the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix soiled a reunion after Nash led the Suns to five NBA playoff appearances in eight seasons (2004-12). The Lakers’ loss last week to the Toronto Raptors also ruined Nash’s return to his hometown country an offseason after pinning them as one of his free agent options.
“It’s always tough when that happens,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “Next time we come here, we have to make sure we come through.”
Regardless, Nash still enjoyed the moment.
“It was a great reception, obviously this is a very special place for me,” Nash said. “To be in front of these incredible fans — I’m very grateful for the reception but also for my time here, which was the best years of my life.”